College football: Grass works to fill JSU coaching staff
by Al Muskewitz
amuskewitz@annistonstar.com
Jan 28, 2014 | 4710 views |  0 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
John Grass was introduced as the head football coach at JSU on Thursday. (Photo by Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star)
John Grass was introduced as the head football coach at JSU on Thursday. (Photo by Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star)
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JACKSONVILLE — New Jacksonville State football coach John Grass has been working like his up-tempo offense to fill his staff, but he’s going with a long count to find what he has called his most critical hire.

Most of the Gamecocks’ offensive staff has taken shape among the eight assistants on board, but the defensive coordinator’s spot might go vacant until after signing day .

“There are a lot of folks who are wanting jobs that I’m in the middle of interviewing,” Grass said before Monday’s JSU board of trustees meeting. “I’m interviewing people during the week to see if it’s a fit or not.

“The right guy will come along, and that’s going to hold me, really, on any other defensive positions because I want (the defensive coordinator) to have some input on who’s going to be sitting in the room and working with him. … We’re interviewing this week but we’re not going to make a decision after this weekend.”

Among those being considered for the job are former East Carolina head coach and Arkansas State defensive coordinator John Thompson, former Arkansas State and Georgia Southern defensive coordinator Kevin Corless and former Arkansas State secondary coach Brandon Hall, now an internal assistant at Auburn.

Thompson, 58, had had three wins in two seasons as ECU’s head coach.

There are several high school coaches Grass highly respects and said he was going to sit down with and “give serious consideration” to joining the staff. Piedmont head coach Steve Smith, Gadsden City head coach Matt Scott and Oxford assistant Michael Darden, Grass’ quarterback at Albertville, are believed to be among them.

Former JSU coach Bill Clark built his staff among coaches he worked with at Prattville and South Alabama.

“You always have lists of people in mind if you ever got a job or changed jobs,” Grass said. “I can tell you we didn’t expect this storm right here at the end, it just happened to come out of nowhere.

“I hadn’t been working on this for two years to put a staff together, but I think the right people are going to fall in line. I believe wholeheartedly it’s about the people first and then the job they can do coaching. There are a lot of good coaches out there that may not fit our staff. We’re going to find the best coach available for us at this time.”

With most of the previous staff joining Clark at UAB, Grass has had to build a staff from scratch.

Running backs coach Jimmy Ogle remained at JSU and has been elevated to assistant head coach. Graduate assistants Larry Smith (quarterbacks), Trey Clark (offensive line) and Nick Gentry (outside linebackers) have been promoted and Grass hired former Alabama players Nick Williams (receivers) and Todd Bates (defensive line) to fill other spots.

Bates, a Heflin product, has coached at Idaho State and most recently was defensive line and strength coach at East Central (Miss.) Community College.

Former Louisiana-Monroe and Hoover quarterback Cody Wells has been hired to work on the offensive staff and Notre Dame recruiting analyst J.R. Sandlin, an aide for Grass one year at Oxford, has been hired as recruiting coordinator and likely will coach tight ends, where he played at Central Florida.

The salary pool for the previous staff of assistants was just about $525,000.

In other athletics related news from the board meeting:

—The athletics committee was told the first two games of the football series with Chattanooga will be played at Finley Stadium in 2014 and 2015 with two return games scheduled for JSU.

—Although he didn’t have complete composite figures, athletics director Warren Koegel said the JSU athletes’ fall semester grades looked promising. He guessed they would be “as close to or better” than the record collective GPA they posted last spring.

Koegel also told the athletics committee “all of our APR scores are in order.” Those scores will be released by the NCAA later this spring.

—Koegel said the school received 59 applications for the vacant head volleyball coach position and hoped to make a hire the week before the team began spring practice in mid-February. He also said he hoped to hire an assistant compliance director from five recent interviews by the middle of this week.

—While Grass is working to complete his staff, JSU officials are putting the finishing touches on the coach’s contract. Grass will receive a three-year contract with a one-year rollover after the first season with a salary similar to the $175,000 his predecessor received.
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